Top 5 Books Not Featured in FFF

Happy Friday! At the end of the Five Fall Favorites party last month, I realized that some of the books I enjoy most (and most enjoy talking about) didn’t end up making the cut for this round of recommendations. Even if they didn’t fit this year’s prompts, they are well worth talking about, so today’s post is a follow-up discussing my Top 5 Favorite Books Not Featured in FFF.

1. Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Novella – Literary Fiction (Existentialism?); Published 1957

Franny Glass is a pretty, effervescent college student on a date with her intellectually confident boyfriend, Lane. They appear to be the perfect couple, but as they struggle to communicate with each other about the things they really care about, slowly their true feelings come to the surface. The second story in this book, ‘Zooey’, plunges us into the world of her ethereal, sophisticated family. When Franny’s emotional and spiritual doubts reach new heights, her older brother Zooey, a misanthropic former child genius, offers her consolation and brotherly advice.

Written in Salinger’s typically irreverent style, these two stories offer a touching snapshot of the distraught mindset of early adulthood and are full of the insightful emotional observations and witty turns of phrase that have helped make Salinger’s reputation what it is today.

This book was part of a Contemporary Lit class that I took a few years ago, and it surprised me by how much I related to characters who, to an extent, have a very unique background. This is a book that most readers either love or hate; I have seen very little in between, and I understand why. It’s become a book that affects – not directly shapes, but affects – some of my own views.

2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Historical Fiction (Classic); Published 1868

Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they’re putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there’s one thing they can’t help wondering: Will Father return home safely? 

Oh how I love this book! Little Women is my perennial favorite. Few, if any, other books have filled my heart and worked my mind as much as this one. It was a wonderful story when I first read it as a preteen, and it is still enjoyable today. Like the characters it features, this book is sweet yet daring, at turns energetic and contemplative, fun and thorough. It’s well worth the hype, and I’m glad it continues to enjoy widespread respect. I only wish that some of Alcott’s other books could experience the same large audience.

3. Disruptive Witness by Alan Noble

Nonfiction; Published 2018

We live in a distracted, secular age. These two trends define life in Western society today. We are increasingly addicted to habits―and devices―that distract and “buffer” us from substantive reflection and deep engagement with the world. And we live in what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor calls “a secular age”―an age in which all beliefs are equally viable and real transcendence is less and less plausible. Drawing on Taylor’s work, Alan Noble describes how these realities shape our thinking and affect our daily lives. Too often Christians have acquiesced to these trends, and the result has been a church that struggles to disrupt the ingrained patterns of people’s lives. But the gospel of Jesus is inherently disruptive: like a plow, it breaks up the hardened surface to expose the fertile earth below. In this book Noble lays out individual, ecclesial, and cultural practices that disrupt our society’s deep-rooted assumptions and point beyond them to the transcendent grace and beauty of Jesus. Disruptive Witness casts a new vision for the evangelical imagination, calling us away from abstraction and cliché to a more faithful embodiment of the gospel for our day.

Disruptive Witness is, without question, my favorite contemporary nonfiction book. I have yet to write a decent review despite reading the book several times. I just don’t have the words to explain why or how this book is so good – it simply is. Highly recommend it for all Christians.

4. Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane

Historical Fiction based on the life of L.M. Montgomery; Published 2017

Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery—Maud to her friends—has a dream: to go to college and, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott, become a writer. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman’s place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister’s stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren’t a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn’t sure she wants to settle down with a boy—her dreams of being a writer are much more important.

Life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother’s plans for her, which threaten Maud’s future—and her happiness—forever.

Knowing that one of my favorite authors was also the favorite author of another of my favorite authors is a fun connection. I loved reading this fictionalized account of Maud’s childhood. The writing is beautiful, the story engaging, and the subject material obviously among my favorite. This is a book that I often bring up with others who love all things literary (as many book bloggers do), so I’m especially surprised that it didn’t make any of my FFF lists. Highly recommend for anyone who appreciates either Montgomery or Alcott, particularly readers who love the Anne of Green Gables books.

5. The Wedding Score by Amanda Tero

Contemporary Fiction Novella; Published 2019

Most girls dream of their wedding days. Except me. I’m too busy practicing piano and being the live soundtrack for everyone else’s weddings to think about my own. I’ve survived most of my twenties with harmonious chords and pleasant days.

So why is it that now, at twenty-seven, a discordant feeling presents itself? Is there a solid solution to loneliness when there is absolutely no potential husband on the horizon?

This book strikes a personal chord with me, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I haven’t talked about it as widely as I expected. Reading this book is like talking to a friend and hearing them say exactly what you needed to hear. In today’s world I often see the extremes of thoughts about relationships celebrated: either your life should revolve entirely around marriage, which leaves singleness as a disease to be hated and cured, or a brash form of independence is touted as the only way to a satisfactory life. This book looks at something in the middle: the wanting of a relationship, while understanding that there are more important things and successfully bringing God into the equation. The complexity of relationship statuses is respected and explored while telling an engaging short story. I highly recommend The Wedding Score to all teens and young adult women, as well as those who teach them.

Are there any books that you recommend frequently, and feel like you can’t talk about often enough? These are just a few of my go-to’s which I will take (or make) every opportunity to recommend. I would love to hear about your favorites in the comments!

Tomorrow I will share November’s Spell the Month in Books linkup! We’re well into the -ber months, so I look forward to the creativity that repeated letters draw out of participants.

Until the next chapter,

Jana

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